One of the biggest reasons for Northwestern's startling season of disappointment in 2013 was the absence of Venric Mark.
And a big key to getting back to the 10-win form that raised expectations in Evanston will be the return Venric Mark.
The dynamic running back was granted a medical hardship waiver by the Big Ten and earned a fifth year of eligibility to return to the Wildcats for the 2014 season, the school announced Tuesday.
Coming off an All-America season as a punt returner in 2012, Mark was sidelined with a variety of injuries last season, causing him to miss nearly the entire season. He played only one full game, that season-altering loss to Ohio State, and played well, but after fracturing an ankle in first quarter of the following game against Wisconsin, Mark was done for the season.
Mark's absence significantly hampered Northwestern's offensive attack, putting a ton of pressure on injury replacements who couldn't run the ball with the same explosiveness that Mark could.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald was confident throughout the latter half of the season that Mark would return for a fifth season.